Not everyone wants to spend the time and, most importantly, money building up their inventory of tools for every job that pops up. Lots of people just want a handful of tools on hand to tackle basic jobs, and then pay to have someone with more experience and skill handle tougher jobs.
With that in mind, we put together this handy list of tools that everyone will want to do the basics. Whether you consider yourself ‘handy’ or not, gathering these basic tools and keeping them in a convenient place when you need them will be helpful.
If someone has just a couple of tools, one of them is going to be a hammer. That’s because almost everyone needs one to mount pictures on the wall, or bang a nail into something at some point. The pounding action of a hammer is indispensable. Your alternative is finding a big rock that fits your hand. Unless you do a lot of odd jobs, there is no need to buy an expensive hammer, but do find one that is comfortable (the right weight for example) for you to use.
Just about everything in a home involves screws, from taking apart electronics, to replacing light switches, to swapping out bulbs in certain light fixtures. If you have a tool drawer or toolbox, it’ll need to have at least one flathead for basic jobs and a Phillips head or two – the one that looks like a plus sign – in it. Again, these don’t have to be expensive unless you are doing a lot of home projects. Better to have a couple different sizes of each type at your disposal.
You might not need a drill very often, especially since once you put a hole in something it’s there permanently. When you need a hole, however, you have to have a drill. A decent electric cordless drill is actually pretty affordable, and very handy. Once you own one of these, you’ll never know how you managed without one.
- Utility knife
Anything that requires cutting something will need a knife, and you won’t want to use your good kitchen knives to do it. It’s unsanitary, but more importantly, it’s dangerous. A bread knife is not meant for opening boxes. A good utility knife for cutting and trimming things to fit is a must-have tool. They come in different styles and can hold different types of blades. Find one that is easy for you to use including changing out blades. (Some even have blade storage built into the handle!)
Pliers allow you to grip something with much greater force than you can with your bare hands. You can pull things apart, pull wire through a hole, or hold something in place while you work on it. You might find that two pairs of pliers are necessary: a standard set, and a needlenose set for jobs that require pinpoint accuracy. Take our word for it, these will come in handy and are a must for every toolbox.
- Adjustable wrench
You could buy sets of both standard and metric wrenches, and if you’re serious about your home repair work, that’s what we’d suggest. They’re stronger and can get a better grip on what you’re trying to turn. For most basic jobs, however, an adjustable wrench takes up much less space without a massive drop-off in performance.
At some point, basic home repair will require that you shape a piece of metal or wood so that it fits the space it’s intended for. Although you can get files that specialize in either wood or metal, a basic file is an essential tool to have just in case. You won’t use this tool often, but there’s no substitute for it when you need it.
Stepladders aren’t really tools. They are more devices that support the use of tools. If you need a foot or two of extra space to change lightbulbs or to get the right position to use a screwdriver, you’ll need a stepladder. They’re also useful for cleaning out gutters and painting spaces that are high up. If you’re not comfortable with heights and prefer to hire out the jobs like gutters, then a smaller ladder is great and easy to store. If you plan to tackle jobs with a bit of height, or perhaps you have high ceilings in your home, stepladders do come in different heights and it may be worth the investment. When cared for properly they’ll last for a very long time.
Like stepladders, flashlights are more aids than tools. You need to have one handy in case you need to work in the dark or check a fuse box at night. They’re also handy if you hear a noise outside at night and want to investigate. These days you can also get lights ‘built in’ to the rim of a cap or ones that strap on to your head so you can work hands free.
Handsaws, like screwdrivers, are tools that you might want to diversify. Get a basic handsaw for cutting wood and plastic, and a hacksaw for cutting metal. Both have a wide range of applications around the house. Start with the saw for cutting wood, because those jobs pop up more frequently.
- Hex keys
With the advent of furniture kits, hex keys have become critical basic tools around the house. Although you can put most things together with just a couple of different sizes, we recommend getting a set of at least eight just to have a good variety. When the need arises, and it will, you’ll be glad you have them and they are fairly inexpensive.
If you only want to have a few tools around the house, a multi-tool is a great option. Most of them come with a set of pliers and a variety of screwdrivers and cutting blades. Figure out which ones you’ll need and shop from there. This won’t work for every job but will work for many tasks and can be stored easily in your car or a drawer in your kitchen for easy access.
We hope you found this list helpful. Whether you are new homeowner, just got your first apartment, or perhaps you just find yourself always looking for a tool you don’t have, this is a good starting point.